San Diego Union Tribune – RB golf course has aged well

After nearly 50 years, RB golf course has aged well
By Kirk Kenney

December 2, 2011

RANCHO BERNARDO — Building golf courses in master-planned communities is routine these days, but it was a groundbreaking venture when Billy Bell Jr. was asked to design the RB Inn course half a century ago amid hundreds of new homes and condominiums.

Now approaching a milestone where most would be reluctant to reveal their age, the Rancho Bernardo Inn is embracing its upcoming 50th anniversary with a series of specials and promotions planned for 2012.

If only the rest of us could age so gracefully. It helps that $30 million has been invested in the property — which has expanded through the years to include restaurants, banquet facilities, a day spa and nearly 300 guest rooms — over the past five years.

“Since we had a slow economy the last couple of years,” said general manager John Gates, “our ownership group took advantage of that downtime and did a lot of really nice things to the property.

“The economy (downturn) hit, but the ownership stayed with the plan. We didn’t blink and started doing a lot aggressive things with social media campaigns.”
Gates said the investment and exposure is paying dividends. Room nights are almost on a record pace and tournament play is up significantly, with more than 8,000 tournament rounds played this year. The addition of the spa plays a part in that.

“For all the significant others that don’t play golf, they still get to enjoy the day and be here for dinner (following a tournament),” said Erik Johnson, director of sales and marketing.

While all of the other amenities add to RB Inn’s appeal, the golf course remains its most prominent feature. The course was distinguished from the start. It opened in 1962 and just two years later the PGA’s San Diego Open was played there. Winner Art Wall shot a 14-under to pocket the $4,300 winner’s check. In 1978, the LPGA began a memorable three-year run. Sally Little defeated Nancy Lopez in a playoff in ’78. Hall of Famer Joanne Carner followed with victories in each of the next two years.

Trees and plants have long since grown in, the tee boxes and fairways are well-manicured, and now a two-year greens renovation project has been completed.
Many of those who enjoy the course are locals who belong to the JC Resorts Players Club. Membership costs as little as $259 a year and includes five rounds of golf (with cart), 10 free buckets of balls, pro shop discounts and up to 50 percent off greens fees.

RB Inn measures 6,631 yards from the championship tees and is still regarded among the nicest places to play in the county. The 347-yard, par-4 first hole gives a glimpse of what’s to come, with an elevation change off the tee and an uphill approach on the second shot to a tree-shaded green. Trees and bunkers provide most of the challenges on the front, but water provides visual intimidation from the back tees on the par-3 fourth hole and again fronting the green on the par-4 ninth.

The par-3, 13th hole is barely 100 yards but provides quite a challenge hitting into a postage-stamp green that is well-guarded by bunkers. The par-4 16th holes affords plenty of downhill carrying, providing good birdie opportunities.

The par-5 18th is one of the more memorable finishing holes in the county. It measures more than 500 yards even from the white tees. A pond (don’t be distracted by the water spout) comes into play off the tee and it’s difficult to reach the green in two shots because of the uphill finish, with trees on the right and a stream guarding the green. Once all that has been conquered, there’s still the matter of the tiered green.

It is definitely a feeling of accomplishment — and enjoyment — when the final putt falls.